Spotlight On: Fender Precision Bass Guitar
Looking at the legend that is the Fender Precision Bass
The Fender Precision Bass is one of those iconic musical instruments that is unmistakable in form, with good reason. Imagine back in the 1950’s, a time when there were no electric bass guitars and all low-end revellers had to rely upon the upright bass. So, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of transporting a double bass, then you’ll understand why the Leo Fender patented Precision Bass was such a big hit.
It’s a Fender P Bass but not as we know it, Jim…
The original Fender “P Bass” was modelled on the Fender Telecaster, the only main difference being the double cutaway body. This was refined further with the addition of contoured edges in the mid-50s. A whole host of additions were made with upgrades to make the Precision Bass more closely resemble the newly released Stratocaster in 1957. Around that same time Fender introduced their Precision split-coil pickup, which arguably defines the Fender Precision Bass sound.
Through the years players across virtually every musical genre imaginable from metal and punk to country and folk have adopted the P Bass as their weapon of choice on the stage and in the studio including: Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Matt Freeman of Rancid, Mike Dirnt of Green Day, Tony Franklin of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band, and Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses (as we’ll see below).
Fender Precision Bass options: which one is right for me?
There are lots of varieties of Precision Basses on the market and deciding which one it right for you might seem like a pretty big challenge. So, we’ll take a look at some of the different options available to help you.
1. Fender Player Series Precision Bass Guitar
The Fender Player Series Precision Bass offers an affordable yet gig-ready model for bassists of all ages and skill levels.
Hailing from Fender’s Ensenada base, these Mexican built models offer outstanding value for money. Taking over from the Mexican Standard Series, they combine classic features with modern appointments to make them ideal for contemporary players. The double-cutaway alder body with subtle bevelled edges offers a lightweight feel in the hands, whilst removing any obstacles from your path as you glide through performances.
Married to the body is an elegant bolt-on maple neck with modern “C” profile that allows it to sit sweetly in your hand. Thanks to the satin urethane finish you can run from first to last fret and back again without being slowed by stickiness or tackiness. With 20 medium-jumbo frets at your disposal, you’ve got a generous playground for your fingers to explore.
As ever, a single split-coil pickup with master volume and tone controls enables you to traverse a wide range of musical styles with relative ease. From saturated low-end through bouncing mids to attentive highs, you have pretty much everything need to lay down some killer grooves.
If you’ve had your heart set on a Fender Precision Bass but have been unsure with regard to where to get started, you can’t go wrong with the Player Series model. Alternatively, if you’re a gigging bassist who needs a reliable model that won’t cost the earth, then give it a whirl.
2. Fender American Performer Precision Bass Guitar
The Fender American Performer Precision Bass is actually built only 200 miles north of the Player Series. Straight out of Fender’s Corona, California factory, the American Performer is borne to provide an elegant yet resilient workhorse for touring professionals – so much so that each model is supplied with a deluxe gig bag to get you out and about immediately.
As before the curvy double-cutaway body is crafted using alder, which is paired with a modern “C” profile maple masterpiece of a neck. There are both maple (above) and rosewood (below) fingerboard options with sleek 9.5-inch radius to accommodate smooth string bends and carefree movement across each one of the 20 medium-jumbo frets.
The tonal engine at the heart of the American Performer P Bass is made up of carefully crafted Yosemite pickups. Accompanying the split single-coil pickup in the middle position is an additional Jazz Bass single-coil in the bridge position. Powered using Alnico 5 magnets, they offer a resounding quality with plenty of beefy behind them. Independent volume controls for each pickup allows you to temper and tame your sound. The tone pot boasts Fender’s proprietary Greasebucket tone circuitry, which allows highs to be rolled-off without sacrificing on low-end energy for smooth, unabashed basslines.
Gig-ready hardware resides across the American Performer from the 4-saddle vintage style bridge with steel saddles to the Fender “F” lightweight vintage paddle keys with tapered shafts for steadfast tuning integrity.
3. Fender Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass Guitar
As noted above, many a bassist has turned to the Precision Bass as their weapon of choice on stage and in the studio, including legendary rocker Duff McKagan. The Fender Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass Guitar adheres to the specs favoured by the man himself. Though the main gist of the design doesn’t depart far from what one would expect in a Precision Bass, there are so notable changes.
The alder body, modern “C” profile maple neck, and 9.5-inch radius rosewood fingerboard with 20 medium-jumbo frets are all present and correct. However, amongst the pearloid block inlays there is a number 12 at the 12th fret as a subtle touch.
Moving away from the standard electronics setup, a Fender vintage-style split single-coil P Bass in the middle position pairs with a more aggressive sounding Seymour Duncan STKJ2B Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge position. Between this pair and his no holds barred playing style, you get that unmistakeable McKagan sound.
Another unusual hardware appointment is the Hipshot Bass Xtender, which allows the low E string to be dropped down to D at the flick of a lever. The headstock is home to Fender ’70s vintage-style stamped open-gear tuning machines for an old school touch, rock-solid tuning notwithstanding. Add to that a single groove 4-saddle pure vintage ’70s bridge and you’ve got a solid performer worthy of a true rock hero.
Oh, and Fender even include a deluxe gig bag with every model too. Not too shabby, eh?
Over to you
It’s hard to get across how much fun it is to play a Fender Precision Bass, especially if you’re hammering out face-smashing riffs. Both slick and punchy, it provides bags of tone that settles right in the middle of the mix, providing a musical glue that effortlessly binds tracks together.
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